“Speed Don’t Lie”

January 7, 2014

Lee Sang-hwa wins final Olympic tune-up

By Jung Min-ho


Defending Olympic speed skating champion Lee Sang-hwa on Tuesday won her final competition ahead of the Sochi Games, building momentum before the world’s biggest winter sporting event opens on Feb. 7.

Lee Sang-hwa is expected to win a gold medal in Sochi Olympics. (Yonhap)

Lee Sang-hwa is expected to win a gold medal in Sochi Olympics. (Yonhap)

The 24-year-old finished the women’s 500 meters in 38.11 seconds at an event organized by the Korea Skating Union (KSU) in Seoul. While falling 1.75 seconds shy of her own world record, the time put Kim far ahead of runner-up Lee Bo-ra at 39.78 seconds.

Kim said she used the Olympic rehearsal to assess her preparation for the games.

“I wasn’t happy with the first 100 meters. But I was relieved by my performance for the rest of the race,” Lee said.

“How to improve my current condition before the Games is really important. I will try my best to enhance my performance over the first 100 meters.”

Since she will not participate in the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships on Jan. 18-19 in Nagano, Japan, it was the final tune-up for Lee, who is attempting to become the third female athlete to win back-to-back Olympic titles in the 500 meters.

After coming down with an illness, Lee skipped the second 500-meter competition during a World Cup event in December as well as the national sprint championships later that month.

“I think I lost some feel for the race since I had not participated in any contest for (nearly two months),” Lee said. “My focus in practice will be on improving my first step.”

Lee added she will skip the world championships due to fatigue from successive competitions since November, a month that saw her break her own world record three times. Her current record in the event is 36.36 seconds.

The victory raised hopes that she will beat the record again in Russia.

She said she “doesn’t feel the Olympic vibe yet,” but expects to get it “sometime after two weeks.”

When asked if there is anyone she considers as her chief rival, Lee played coy, saying only, “I have to be cautious of every athlete especially the ones from Germany, China and the Netherlands.”

Lee said she is generally satisfied with her Olympic preparation and will compete in Sochi “like I always have.”

“It is important to think positively. I may make mistakes, and there are some areas that I still can improve,” she said.